People interested in whole body donation need to discuss their wishes with their families, doctors, and other relevant persons. You can also get a donor card from the Program. Be sure your family or relevant persons know that you want to be a whole body donor and understand the procedure for anatomical donation. That procedure is detailed on our Commonly Asked Questions page.
Even if you are listed with the Program as someone interested in anatomical donation, we cannot guarantee that we will accept your body at the time of death. The body must be in useful condition at the time of death. For example, if a body is badly damaged in a car accident, it will not be a useful teaching specimen. In addition, we must safeguard our students and lab personnel against certain contagious diseases, like active TB or hepatitis B, that remain contagious after death.
For these reasons, we ask that at the time of death someone contact the Program. We have a checklist of questions that we will ask about the cause of death and the condition of the body. When those questions are answered, we can tell the family whether or not we can accept the body.
The body may be used immediately or held for a future class, perhaps for as long as two years. When the class is finished, the body is cremated (at no charge to the family). We dispose of the ashes in accordance with the family's wishes; some families want the ashes mailed to them or to a funeral home for a memorial service. When the family does not request that the ashes be returned, we scatter the ashes in a special site in Duke Forest.
All of the members of the Duke Anatomical Gifts Program are committed to working closely with donor families to ensure that each donation proceeds smoothly, that the donation is accepted in a thoughtful and respectful manner, and that the wishes of the departed and his or her family are honored whenever possible.
-- From Donor Families